I blame well-meaning writing coaches for campaigning against the use of passive language. We are taught the following statements are weak.
So rather than clearly and objectively stating a condition, writers are supposed to replace the passive “has” with an active verb. Suffer, then, does the trick; it is dramatic. The word itself is pronounced with a softness, a weakness, a helplessness: [suhf-er]. It does not sound tough.
Recently, I read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami and the following line gave me pause. I tossed it back and forth in my mind.
When we talk about having an illness “suffering is optional.”
The word I would use instead of suffer is one of graceful strength.
One can endure the pain, weather the storm, and carry on.
Mining seems a straightforward word, boring even, completely understood on its face.
If you would like to see some images of the immense impact of mining here is a quick google image search. This type of digging in and unearthing is paramount to success as a writer.
Everyone has seen the surface. Everyone has ideas.
Be a pioneer, burrow in, and draw out something of value. Pull it from the dirt. Examine its authenticity.
Take this resource to your crafting table and create.
Trigger words exist.
Words we now know are politically incorrect are real.
And this matters.
Words cannot be swallowed back.
Words tossed out casually or flippantly have consequences, mostly mild and in accumulations severe.
Here are two related facts: (1) my eighth grade teacher gave out copying dictionary pages as a punishment. And (2) in eighth grade, I broke classroom rules during social studies.
A boy with dreams more than a few
Worked so hard ’til they all came true.
Reading in the shade
Retreat to central air
Sweaty hair and face
Suffocating car space
Trapped in pollen air
Cheering “Go For It!” and purchasing high end shoes, equipments, camps, and lessons to help the child pursue their dream of a NFL starring role, may not change the outcome. Encouraging him to try harder, do push ups, run track, visualize his dream coming true isn’t going to change circumstance. Let him try anyway, but then let him learn the tough lesson.
Look at the kid who is five feet tall his freshman year and weighs under a hundred pounds. Is this kid even making the high school team? A positive attitude and a display of hard work may earn his spot on the team, but is he ever getting off the bench? Sure he can make every practice, may even get the second string line-up, but he isn’t going to outrun, out muscle the kid twice his size. He can wear the team t-shirt and travel on the team bus. He can pretend it doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t touch the game ball. No amount of mental aerobics and positive thinking is going to change his circumstance. No amount of mantras or feel good posters or bumper stickers or key rings is going to make it possible for him to play pro football. And that’s okay. Disappointment is okay.
The realization that we do not have super powers to overcome whatever obstacles exist is a healthy conclusion that allows us to be kind to ourselves. Not being able to achieve whatever we want is not a sign of weakness, or a resolve to fail, quit, or give up. Dreams are something imagined and supposed. Moving on is liberating.